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Ever wondered if vitamin pills actually work?

Content by: Guy Lawrence

vitamin pills and protein snacks

By Guy Lawrence


You would like to think so with Americans now spending an estimated $28 billion a year! This is a figure that has doubled over the last 15 years and continues to grow.

With that kind of turnover, it is an industry that wouldn’t appreciate what Time journalist John Cloud had to say on the matter.

John Cloud did the self experiment following the regime of a US vitamin company over 5 months. He was prescribed 22 vitamins a day along with protein bars and pysllium fibre.

The result?

He had a doctor to check him before and after the experiment. The only noticeable effect was that his vitamin D had increased. Interestingly he also increased his girth measurements by a total of almost 5kg.

It is fair to say we don’t know how questionable this experiment was. There’s no mention of exercise, what the protein snacks or bars were and what his daily diet consisted of.

I do wonder though if the general consensus amongst us is by simply taking a vitamin pill our health will improve. What about the food we eat and the lifestyles we lead? Surely that has much more impact long term?

What I can say for sure is the spin on marketing I see in the fitness industry when it comes to protein powders, bars and protein snacks is greatly skewed. It still amazes me the amount of females that ask me if they will get big muscles or put on weight by consuming a protein powder?  Yet a healthy protein snack would actually have the opposite effect and help most females find their true natural weight. But hey, if a product uses advertising featuring big muscles or a swimsuit model, it’s got to be good for you right?

An article in the SMH featuring Sydney University Associate Professor in Human Nutrition Samir Samman had to say this on the matter:

“The first really important finding was that these made no effect – that there was no improvement in people taking large amounts of vitamins in relation to cardiovascular disease,”

“The statistics also showed that large doses of vitamins actually have a small, but statistically significant, increase in mortality for these patients.”

He said Cloud’s experiment came to similar conclusions as other academic research into the efficacy of vitamins.

“You find sporadic bits of information promoting this, or saying that this is beneficial if you are being treated for a condition,”

“But if people are otherwise healthy, and adequately nourished, then why are they taking additional supplements?”

I think it would be very easy for me to jump on the bandwagon and claim vitamins are expensive urine. In saying that, deficiency is usually from malnutrition and if there is a vitamin deficiency, I feel professional guidance with the right diagnosis and an improvement in lifestyle would be beneficial to get someone up to speed.

As for longevity and good health? I can’t see how it trumps a healthy lifestyle with smart daily choices, do you?

Guy Lawrence

This article is brought to you by Guy Lawrence. Guy is a qualified fitness trainer with over 10 years of experience in the health industry. Guy worked at the UTS Fitness Centre in Sydney Australia where he specialised in exercise nutrition and obtained his Certificate in Exercise Nutrition and Certified... Read More
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    1 Reply to “Ever wondered if vitamin pills actually work?”
    Gary says:

    Its an interesting article and personal experiment, but it makes a pretty broad statement. To say all supplements are worthless and board on dangerous based on one product (Usana) is a bit like saying all fat is bad – which is clearly is not!

    The main issue is without defined quality standards it is a lottery as to what you are getting (as John exudes to). To make matters worse, if you do pay a “professional” all you end up getting someone using you as a sales pipeline to sell their brand.

    But that doesn’t mean the concept and a well managed approach won’t return benefits. There is a lot of research to support tailored quality supplements in preventing disease or managing disease – curcumin is a good example. And from my own experience with chronic disease, supplementing has been the only way to recover my health.

    Its like anything, the devil is in the detail. But writing off a whole avenue of improved health in one stroke is a little brash!

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